Doctor Who Season 1 Finale Review

Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 9: “Empire of Death” Review

**This review contains full spoilers for Doctor Who Season 1, Episode 9, “Empire of Death.”**

“Empire of Death” continues the thrilling narrative set up in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” and pays homage to the classic Doctor Who serial “The Pyramids of Mars.” This episode delivers intense sci-fi action, an apocalyptic finale, and resolves lingering questions from the previous episode and the season as a whole. The cataclysmic atmosphere established in “The Legend of Ruby Sunday” persists throughout, building to a climactic resolution. The episode features its own version of the “Snap” moment akin to Infinity War, where Sutekh decimates all life in the universe with chilling consequences.

Gabriel Woolf’s reprisal of Sutekh’s voice is exceptional, exuding menace and terror in “Empire of Death.” Despite my reservations about Sutekh’s CGI appearance, Woolf’s performance as the relentless pursuer alongside The Doctor, Mel, and Ruby across time and space is truly captivating. The episode flirts with the idea of a major character’s permanent demise, adding gravitas to the narrative, considering the show’s family-friendly tone. The stakes are sky-high, and the emotional impact of “Empire of Death” resonates in every scene.

Ncuti Gatwa shines in his inaugural finale as The Doctor, balancing humanity and alien essence throughout “Empire of Death.” While displaying moments of emotional vulnerability characteristic of the 15th Doctor, he also embodies the timeless Time Lord demeanor, shielding his emotions for the greater good.

The poignant moment where The Doctor parts ways with Ruby, allowing her to lead her own life outside the TARDIS, mirrors classic Doctor Who themes of detachment and wisdom. Gatwa’s portrayal captures the complexity of The Doctor’s emotional journey, from detachment to fleeting vulnerability, showcasing the depth of his character.

**The episode is a treasure trove of both new and old Doctor Who references**. Notable mentions include the Remembered TARDIS fueled by memory and the Time Window, enriching the narrative with nods to the show’s lore. While these references add depth, the overt callbacks to “Pyramids of Mars” feel slightly forced, catering primarily to fans familiar with the classic serial.

In the end, “Empire of Death” is an emotional send-off for Ruby.

“Empire of Death” benefits from an extended runtime, allowing for a satisfying conclusion to Sutekh’s arc. While the universe’s reset may seem cliché, the episode handles it well, culminating in a fitting resolution. The introduction of Ruby’s mother adds a human touch to the narrative, grounding the character in relatable origins rather than fantastical revelations. The finale leaves some questions unanswered, hinting at future collaborations with Varada Sethu in Season 2, ensuring Ruby’s enigmatic journey continues to unfold.